Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We have some of the best neighbors!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We love our home


A house is what you make it. Our house may be small but it is our home and right for us. Most of the time it is just the two of us with just enough room to accommodate but not enough to have a large chaotic gathering (we do in warmer, outside friendlier weather). We love our home.

We've been having Thanksgiving leftovers daily since last Thursday. Erik made a stock from the turkey and made a mushroom agnolotti turkey soup. It was fantastic! Last night I made a spicy white bean soup with turkey. We have ice cream in the freezer but I haven't gotten into it yet.

Lately we've had some dinner guests, they aren't too hungry though.

The Christmas decorations are up except for the tree and have made some cookies. Hoping December is a good month for everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. We thoroughly enjoyed hosting Thanksgiving for the first time. We had a nice time with family and everyone brought scrumptious sides (e.g. my sister's mashed potatoes). It was nice hanging out at the table and enjoying the company of each other. Erik did a terrific job with the turkey, he brined it in an apple cider maple brine. The turkey was so moist it fell apart when taking it out of the roasting pan. It also was done about an hour before we expected it too, but thanks to some good advice by Mom it wasn't a big deal.

Friday was a fix it day and hang out with Dad day. It was a great day with no rush just trying to help out. We did have to go to a store, but thankfully it wasn't too busy. I very thankfully received a Nikon D80 yesterday too. My D70 is done clicking. I'm excited to be able to take pictures again! Thanks Dad! We wound down the day with dinner with sides from Thanksgiving and steak, good conversation, and pie at Mom and Dad's with Katie and Aaron.And then one of the sure signs that Christmas is approaching, we watched Christmas Vacation. I'm not sure Katie or Dad watched much, or just laughed the entire time. That kind of laugh is contagious!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How do others have time to blog everyday? I don't, or at least I don't make time for it. Even when attempting to sit down to write this Willow wanted to play. I'm not even that busy of a person. I guess maybe part of it is that I like pictures as part of my blog and not just writing (although no pictures for tonight).

We are getting ready to host Thanksgiving here for the first time. I'm excited. I went and bought a table cloth and dug around to find some things that we haven't used in a while but will be desired. This next weekend will entail some deep cleaning, although we've been keeping up with that a little bit lately so I'm not too worried. Things that do need done are fixing the toilet seat, finally hanging some pictures on the wall (I've been nervous ever since we had them fixed), finish the boards to go temporarily around the fireplace, maybe get a lamp for the living room (it's pretty dark on one side), and then the cleaning.

This past weekend was certainly a nice mix of accomplish a few projects, cleaning, time for myself, and family time. It was good and refreshing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A night in the kitchen with Katie



Wednesday night I had a great time with hanging out with my sister. For dinner I made spaghetti squash-sagna. It was delicious - better than anticipated and that is always nice, with leftovers too. We made pear ginger preserve from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The recipe only made barely half of what it said it would, but it turned out good. We used pears from our pear tree and lately when ever I've been thinking about our pear tree, I wonder where the partridge is?
It was fun hanging out with Katie and nice to have another person stirring. Willow certainly enjoyed their time together too.




Monday, November 7, 2011

Smoking Boots

Literally smoking boots... that is what I came home to tonight. Essence of burnt plastic lingered in the entry. My boots had been knocked over next to the radiator. Lucky for me I hadn't been gone long and the smell was the only damage as my boots are intact. I love my boots.

The yellow room is done. It looks, well, yellow - really yellow. I'm hoping with some things up on the walls and curtains it may lessen the feel of walking right into the sun. That said, I'm very pleased with it too. It is bright and cheery - a happy place.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Goodbye white walls!

The walls in the old office are going from white to yellow... Manilla Tint to be specific. I'm part way into this project and a little nervous that it is too bright and then second that the carpet looks particularly dingy. I guess that might mean it is time for some new carpet - hm, wasn't really anticipating that project. I guess we didn't even think about the carpet when looking at paint colors. Our new office turned out quite well and I had some of the same reaction when I was about this far into painting it, so I will just keep on the keeping on with brush in hand.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Treat Day!

It is my treat day at work and I love baking and making things for other people. Today's treat day sweet feast included:
  • Brownies - from a mix, but always still good
  • Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies - my new favorite cookie
  • Chocolate Dipped Wavy Potato Chips (and the undipped chips)
  • Pear Galette
  • Gluten Free Pear Tart - it was an experiment that didn't turn out exactly like planned but definitely edible and enjoyable

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!


Our Halloween treat was that Willow's kidney function tests where in the normal range today. We were delighted! Our pup is not quite herself 100% but she has made some great progress and we are so thankful!

Halloween was put on the backburner this year. It is one of my favorite holidays. I love pumpkins and fall. We didn't carve pumpkins - ran out of time, but I did have some ceramic pumpkins that are carved that I was able to put out. A couple people asked if I was baking, but no I just put peach cobbler candles in the pumpkins.





 

Earlier I made a little table runner that was autumn colors and reversible, the other side has deep purple corduroy. The pumpkins on the table are ones that I grew in our backyard. I was pretty excited about them. I had a few more that I gave to my sister, or my sister's cat who is in love with them as play toys.

Other fall things I've been up to lately include making a pumpkin spice syrup for hot drinks. I love it in coffee. And with all the pears that have been ripening faster than I can use them, I've been making pear galettes. This last time I added some fresh ginger to the pear. 



Friday, October 28, 2011

Willow


A little over a year ago Erik and I adopted Willow, our yellow lab mixed with (fill in the blank with your own idea - maybe pointer?). She has been challenging at times (mostly in the beginning couple of months) and a delight. Willow has added greatly to our lives and it a member of our family. One of my favorite things that Willow does when we get home is weave herself through our legs and does figure eights rubbing on our legs. I think it is her way of saying she missed us and is glad we are home.

This week Willow went in for a little surgery to have a tooth removed (she bonked it on something, it broke in half). She got sick from an allergy to a drug and was hospitalized. Today I'm happy to say she is home and snoring away next to me. We still have some time to wait to find out if she will be back to herself one hundred percent, but it sure is great to have her home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Office

Back in July I took on painting the new office room. Most rooms in our house were white when we moved in and color scared me (except the pumpkin colored walls in the family room), and we are slowly adapting to more color. I guess I may have had the new office on a very slow migration, as I painted the walls, but never quite finished the room - I needed to paint the yellow bi-fold doors of the closet and the closet trim as well as fix and paint the small doors on top of the closet. This weekend I finally finished the closet, just not the small doors on top. That spurred the office move. We moved the furniture, plugged in all the cables and wiring for the computer, and then found out that the internet didn't work there - darn. A little futzing and we find out no where else in our house does the router work except in the room I'd like to remove the title office from. In a few days and a technical visit hopefully we'll be back to sitting at a desk soon. For the time being we make do. 


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quintessential Fall Night

Last night was a beautiful night with pizza and the inaugural fire in our wood burning stove. Tonight was a beautiful night as well. We had both of our chimneys inspected last month so that we knew everything was good for the winter. Tonight it is toasty both downstairs where the stove is and upstairs.

I made my first pumpkin pie today. I read up on it and still made some mistakes... sloshing pumpkin mixture into the oven followed by 15 minutes of smoke coming from the oven. I only had a hint of smoke lingering around when Erik came home about an hour later. The pie turned out fairly good for the first one, but I think I need some more practice. It wasn't the prettiest but it did taste great. For dinner I made braised pork chops in red wine with walla walla onions and pears with mushroom thyme mashed potatoes. I was pretty proud of myself then to follow that up with a decent pie.

I didn't quite get everything done today that I had wished, but I did have a great day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Squash

I had to share my culinary exploration tonight. I had picked up some different types of squash at the farmers market, from Peter of Peter's Pumpkins. The one I used tonight was a carnival, similar to acorn squash, but a really cool variegated shell. I also picked up butternut and ambercup squash to be used soon as well.  I think I'm going to make soup with the butternut, but not quite sure what I'm going to do with the ambercup yet.

I found my recipe that I used tonight from TasteSpotting, of which I'm often perusing for ideas. It is delightful site although it often makes me hungry and wishing to bake sweet things. Recently I came across a link for CalabacĂ­n relleno de cebollas moradas (Pumpkin with red onion and ricotta) and it looked like something I needed to try. (I was a little nervous about the Spanish, but the recipe was also in English.) I was all ready to make it tonight, got the ricotta from the fridge and found that my ricotta had become quite the colorful science experiment (decided not to show a picture of it - hope that's okay with you). I do like experiments but this had me disappointed. I had already begun prepping the squash, so it was either run to the store for ricotta or adapt the recipe - I chose the latter. Also during the time of deciding what to do about the lack of ricotta, I had a little accident with boiling water all down the front of my sweater, but all was good. My sweater thankfully repelled most of it so no burns here. So my substitutions included goat cheese rather than feta, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese rather than ricotta. I also put maybe a little more than a pinch of nutmeg, another accident, although a happy accident and then I also used dried thyme instead of fresh, again, I didn't want to go to the store. All in all, I was quite pleased that  tasted so good. I can add another type of squash to the 'I will eat' category, as many foods have made the switch. Things I might change... I might try ricotta, or maybe something to make it a little creamier.

Speaking of eating things, but completely unrelated. My dog, Willow, who has been so good in the house while we aren't home, must have accidentally chewed on the corner of a book I was borrowing from a friend. I was in shock when I found it where I left it but the top corner was slightly gnawed on.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rain


Tonight it finally RAINED! I am so very thankful for some rain. We could use a lot more, but I am thankful for  the little bit we got tonight. It even puddled in the driveway. We have been so dry for the past month, maybe two.

Willow liked the rain too. She likes being a wet dog I think. Tonight she wanted to be outside even after our long walk in the rain and it was a good thing because we watched the sunset with beautiful pinks and purples.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Walks with Willow

I was up early this morning and I'm thankful for how these early morning walks with the dog lighten the minds load for the day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Break

Paddling on the Mississippi River
I had a fall break this past week. It was quite enjoyable. I was wishing for a little bit more fall colors, but I still greatly enjoyed my time.
A couple of highlights:
  • Canning adventures with friends and Erik. We made Apple Cider Jelly and Erik's Grandma Lois' Pickled Beets.
  • Paddling with my neighbor on the windy Mississippi River, in his beautiful handcrafted cedar strip kayaks. 
  • Father Hennepin State Park. I wanted to see some albino deer and we didn't but we did see some cool caterpillars.
  • 5th Anniversary - we had crab legs for dinner and then had desert from Pardon My French by the bonfire with some port. It was lovely. 
  • Enjoying Sunday around Minneapolis and St. Paul with my parents, cheering on my sister, Katie, who completed her first marathon! So completely impressed!
Willow was in the water within minutes of pulling up to the cabin
    Katie in the Twin Cities Marathon (photo by: Dad)

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Coffee - a.k.a. no sugar vanilla soy latte - has seen me through some days of burning the candle at both ends lately. The ladybug that came with this delight in a cup just made the day even that much better!

    I think this Wednesday was the blast winter had, or at least I'm hoping that is the case. I know that last winter ended a bit early at this latitude, but what a different spring we are having. Last year Erik and I were moving about this time and the apple trees were blooming and the tulips were up and open. I have daffodils and the tulip foliage is there but no buds yet.


    Last year I missed the blood root blooming, but this year we've had a beautiful show of the white flowers. Willow likes them too.
    Today was a rainy day around these parts, but I'm hoping for a better weather day tomorrow. If we get the some sun tomorrow I suspect that things will really green up after a drizzly day like today. Yesterday was cool but dry and Erik and I did some yard work and had our first fire in the backyard. Erik put in some really nice steps for us between the house and the garage to the backyard. It had been more like a mud slick beforehand.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Costco thinks I should buy one of these and I do too...

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011


    I want the snow to go away! I'm not sure Willow would agree.


    I wonder how long it will be until we can see the pond. Yesterday you could see some of the spring bulbs popping up from the ground. I'm so very ready for spring!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Happy March!

    Spring will be here soon! One of my favorite things to look forward to at the beginning of each month is a phenology put out by Jim Gilbert with the Wild Bird Store. March's phenology can be found here.
    Erik and I went on a get away further north, to Bayfield, Wisconsin. We had planned to cross country ski and snowshoe, but quickly realized the snow we had left at home was much better than further north and were out of luck for both winter activities. We found other things to do. We went to Little Sand Bay and Meyers Beach, both part of the Apostle Islands National Park. I lived at Little Sand Bay for a summer so it was fun to be back there, although very much different without the carpet of forget-me-nots. We had wanted to hike out to the caves via the ice, but the ice was gone from the last warm spell. We heard that January was a better month to try to get out to them, or the summer when you can kayak to them.

    We decided to drive over to Michigan. It was our first time in Michigan for each of us. We hiked around the Black River National Forest and saw some powerful waterfalls. It was pretty cool. I'd definitely like to go back in the summer or fall.

    We ate at some good places: breakfast at the Egg Toss in Bayfield, Good Thyme, just outside of Washburn, South Shore Brewery in Ashland, WI, and on our way to Michigan we stopped in Washburn for some wonderful pasteries and coffee at Coco.


    We ended our trip with a stop in Duluth for some Fitger's beer and walk amongst the ice on the north shore. It was refreshing to have a little time away.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Alan Kay

    I loved my sister's post recently and in particular, one sentence... "Maybe I spend my train ride home trying to architect a night that uses every minute perfectly." I think that is a terrific perspective. I don't want to waste any of my time but enjoy every moment even when doing things that are less than enjoyable (cleaning the bathroom). That doesn't mean I need to be super busy, but just make the most of my time.


    We had a bit of a snow storm here last Sunday and Monday. Willow loved the snow! We had just lost a bunch of snow to melting and then this storm brought us 18 inches more. The table was completely free of snow. Again I can not see over the snow piles next to the driveway. It is very pretty though.

    During the snow, Erik took on most of the shoveling - very much appreciated. I warmed the house by making blood orange marmalade and a lemon vanilla sauce.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    I've been making stuff lately from cakes to marmalade. The cakes I make up as I go or find inspiration online and go from there. For the marmalade I've been loving the book Well Preserved. I checked it out from the library, but I'm definitely going to need to get a copy for myself. Last weekend I made orange-lemon marmalade. It is a little tart for my taste, but I got a little advice from a co-worker that it is really nice for marinades. I used Valencia oranges and Meyer lemons. Next I'd like to try Blood oranges. I have them, but I need to find a chunk of time to make it.
    Yesterday this was the view of the sunrise from our bedroom window. Today you could hardly see this tree from the fog that hung around most of the day. Thankfully the sun peaked out towards the end of the day. Willow and I got out for a run taking advantage of the last bit of sun and the rising, almost-full moon.
    I think someone was playing with my camera... must have been Willow. :)

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    I made the strawberry lemon marmalade. I like how it turned out, but I don't think it has much of a lemon taste to it. The strawberry definitely overpowers the lemon flavor. Next in the preserving adventure is orange marmalade. I picked up some Valencia oranges and Meyer Lemons for it. I was planning on making it Monday night, yet things come up, as always and my plans were delayed.


    This weekend was a busy one, but fun and relaxing at the same time. There was some cleaning, biking (inside of course), movie watching (Dinner for Schmucks), baking (awesome chocolate layer cake with a whip cream/cream cheese/oreo filling and chocolate ganache), tile making (taking a tile, trivet & coaster class with Mom and Kate), hanging out with family and friends (we watched the commercials and chatted during some game between the commercials).

    While cleaning out things that I thought once mattered to me at my parents, I found this trivet that I made in high school. I think I will use it... not too shabby.


    My amaryllis is blooming! It is beautiful! It is so nice to see something blooming during this white time of year!


    P.S. I'm sort of worn out about the cold temperatures and gray days. Come on sun and temps in the reasonable range... 20-30 F, instead of -25 windchill.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    So I made the Cara Cara Orange Curd. I'm glad I made it and had the experience, but I don't think I need to make it again. So my next attempt will be at Strawberry Lemon Marmalade from the Blue Ball book of Preserving. I have strawberries in the freezer from this summer that I'll use. We are almost out of the grape jam I made this fall from our own grapes. I will definitely be hoping for a good grape crop this next year. I'm planning gardens right now. Seems like a good time to think about that when we have feet of snow on top of the gardens. I'm looking forward to trying a small pumpkin patch and raised beds this summer.


    This weekend I made a four layer chocolate cake with raspberry filling and a rich chocolate ganache made with a nice chocolate bar with espresso bean in it. The hardest part was pressing out the raspberry seeds, but it was well worth it. Erik and I played What's Yours Like? this weekend with the neighbors - great game and great company.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
    - Buddhist Saying

    I must have been turned around for blogging the past 8 months, but I think I'm back. I had some activities that I was more attentive to than blogging.

    It has been brutally cold the past week in Minnesota. I thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine today. Yesterday I bought some Cara Cara oranges. I'm going to make some Cara Cara orange curd. It seems that eating citrus fruit is like a burst of summer in your mouth. We've been having the clementines that dot every grocery store entrance, but I saw the recipe on the kitchn and found Cara Cara oranges in our co-op and had to give it a try. I'm not sure what I'll have it on and of course I better make it instead of just talk about it - sometimes that happens.

    I have a few bird feeders around our house, but I have found out that our neighbors have a bird spa (a heated birdbath) and they have had many birds hanging out at their feeders. I think that might go on a wish list of mine. We've had birds and I'm very happy to see them. Lately they seem to be a little more chirpy which is an early sign of spring. One of our bird feeders is too close to a railing and the snow is too high that the squirrels can hop right in and help themselves to the buffet of black sunflower seeds. I may have to move it away from the railing, but not too much I can do about the amount of snow. I guess I could have shoveled away from it but that would have been a lot of work with how much snow we've had this year already.